Devolution Conference 2023 Enters Third Day in Eldoret 

  • The umbrella County Assemblies Forum (CAF) Secretary General Chege Mwaura says county legislatures have been deliberately left out of the discussions as key stakeholders in devolution.
  • Kileleshwa Ward MCA in Nairobi Robert Alai says the Council of Governors has not seen any need to involve County Assemblies in the Devolution Conference.

As the Devolution Conference 2023 in Eldoret enters the third day, Members of County Assemblies say they are not effectively represented at the forum as key stakeholders in devolved government.

The umbrella County Assemblies Forum (CAF) Secretary General Chege Mwaura said on Monday that county governments were the drivers of devolution.

Devolution is a creature of Chapter Eleven of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. Article 176 (1) states that there shall be a county government for each county, consisting of a county assembly and a county executive.

Mr Mwaura pointed out that the organisers of the Conference themed – Devolution at 10, had deliberately left out the input of county legislatures which are key stakeholders in devolved government.

“You cannot effectively talk about devolution by speaking about one side of the county government and expect to have a full conversation on devolution, unless it is purely an executive conversation”, Mr Mwaura told The Times.

From the onset of devolution in 2013, the county legislatures have been seeking to have financial autonomy. The law as structured today does not give county assemblies the desired financial autonomy.

That has remained a major impediment to the independence of the county legislative assemblies, particularly regarding their oversight roles on the executive.

Clamour for Better Pay

They are also demanding better remuneration commensurate with their services and obligations, compared to what governors and other members of county executives they oversight earn.

Mr Mwaura asserted that the Conference organisers had basically ignored the legislative arms of devolution, which does not augur well in the spirit of the Constitution. 

“As County Assemblies we cannot talk about county governments and ignore the executive. We would equally be on a wrong trajectory”, CAF Secretary General said.

Governors have often taken advantage of the void in the law to hold county assemblies at ransom on disbursements from the National Treasury, which effectively impedes their oversight activities on the executive.

President William Samoei Ruto opened the Devolution Conference officially on Wednesday 16th August, 2023. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga gave a keynote address on Thursday 17th afternoon. His address was preceded by a video on the devolution journey.

In telephone conversation with The Times , 2023 CAF Secretary General noted that in an ideal situation, appraising the executive on devolution over the last 10 years is insufficient without input from the county legislature.

County governments jointly exist as the executive on one side and legislature on the other. The Devolution Conference, he explained, had a missing link in the way it has been packaged leaving out input from the county legislative arms.

County Assembles Handed Raw Deal

“Article 185 (1) of the Constitution provides that the legislative authority of a county is vested in, and exercised by its county assembly. This informs why county assemblies are key stakeholders in the Devolution Conference”, CAF Secretary General pointed out.

In Nairobi, Kileleshwa Ward Member of County Assembly Robert Alai told The Times County Assemblies had been given a raw deal in the Devolution Conference that kicked off on Tuesday 15th August, 2023.

“As the Devolution Conference proceeds in Eldoret, I am extremely worried about the fate of devolution because the Council of Governors has not seen the need to involve County Assemblies in the Conference”, said the county legislator. 

Mr Alai pointed out that not a single Speaker of County Assembly, MCA or Clerk of County Assembly from the 47 County Assemblies was slotted to address the Conference or participate as a panelist in the numerous sessions.

“We have all manner of participants including Cabinet Secretaries, NGO heads, corporates and other national government officials gracing the forum as key speakers and panelists but MCAs have not been considered at the Devolution Conference 2023”, Alai noted. 

In the circumstances, the Ward representative said it would only be fair for the County Assemblies to give the devolution conference a wide berth.

Financial Autonomy for Devolved Units

Mr Mwaura said two among the key issues county assemblies want addressed through national legislation was financial autonomy and the Ward Development Fund.

The Secretary General said Senate was supposed to come up with law on financial autonomy for the county legislatures but there were no indications so far.

He explained that CAF had already forwarded to Senate recommendations on proposed amendments to create financial autonomy for the county assemblies.

“When the Senate comes to the Devolution Conference, it comes to look at the interests of county governments, to protect them as enshrined in the Constitution”, the Ngara Ward representative noted.

Under Article 96 (1), the Senate represents counties and serves to protect the interests of the counties and their governments, he pointed out.

“So you cannot bring the Senate on board and purport to say you have brought the county legislatures. The role of the Senate is very specific”, CAF Secretary General said.

Mr Mwaura recalled that President Ruto had occasionally mentioned about the need for county assemblies to have financial autonomy and the Ward Development Fund by legislation but only the Senate can operationalise such executive sentiments.

“The executive cannot talk about facilitating effective work of the county legislatures. What have they said about financial autonomy of the devolved legislatures? Can the executive cite its failed approaches?”, Mwaura posed.

Mr Mwaura says if organizers of the Devolution Conference only consider the function of the executive, it points to a missing link in this and future Devolution Conferences.

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